This article originally appears in The American Thinker
It appeared to be the beginning of something new and exciting for the mainstream press. The Washington Post hires a conservative blogger ostensibly to give the view from the right on issues covered by the paper’s news department. The Post has proven itself innovative in other ways when it comes to the use of the web having recently included a Technorati listing of blogs covering specific articles. It has also increased its on-line content to include other blogs on culture and politics as well as extensive internet live chats with personalities from media, politics, and entertainment.
In fact, it was Dan Froomkin’s political blog White House Briefing that had conservatives calling for a blog to reflect the views of the right at the Post. The laughable bias of Mr. Froomkin contributed in no small way to the eventual decision by Executive Editor Jim Brady to hire Ben Domenech, founder of the blog RedState and at the tender age of 24, a seasoned political operative having worked at the White House and on Capitol Hill as a speech writer.
No sooner had Mr. Domenech gotten his feet wet than the attacks by the netnuts began. Apparently believing that the Washington Post was their exclusive preserve, a place where they hunt down and destroy conservatives not where they give them jobs, lefties went ballistic. The first attacks were for some pretty stupid things Domenech had said blogging at RedState as “Augustine” such as calling Coretta Scott King a communist the day after she died (for which he apologized) and making an ignorant remark about lower crime rates the result of a high number of abortions among blacks (although he didn’t put it quite as matter of factly as I just did). He tried to explain away the remark by claiming he was only quoting pro-life Pastor Neuhaus who was disgusted with using such “evidence” to support abortion. A pretty lame explanation but understandable if not acceptable.
There is not a blogger on this planet who has not written something and then regretted hitting the “publish” button. The immediacy and speed with which blogs cover and comment on issues sometimes leads to writing stupid, emotional posts full of ad-hominem attacks and vituperative digressions from the facts. I’d hate to think what someone doing a hit piece on me would find when I was venting against the latest outrage from the MSM or some idiot lefty.
So Domenech can be excused – barely – for what he has written in haste or otherwise on his blog. Chalk it up to the nature of the beast and forgive him for writing without thinking.
But what simply cannot be tolerated in any venue where the written word is revered and opinions respected is plagiarism. And according to material dug up by several lefty bloggers, the shocking fact is that Domenech is a word stealer of epic proportions, someone who has lifted entire articles from other sources and claimed the words and ideas as his own.
The issue of why the Washington Post couldn’t have found this out before hiring Mr. Domenech is another question entirely and will not be dealt with here. Suffice it to say that this incident along with recent stupidities at the New York Times regarding a fake hurricane victim and a bogus Abu Ghraib poster boy shows how lazy the media has gotten about fact checking.
Writing, being a combination of art and craft, is an extraordinarily personal way to express oneself. So when a plagiarizer lifts entire paragraphs containing ideas that are not his own, he in effect, takes a little of the writer along with the words. It is a personal affront to the originator of those ideas as well as being acts of selfishness and dishonesty.
The plagiarism of Mr. Domenech cannot be chalked up to youthful indiscretion nor to some kind of unconscious parroting of something he read before putting words to paper. The examples unearthed so far – and bloggers are finding more examples almost by the hour – are so clearly copied verbatim from other sources as to constitute an unusually good case for plagiarism against Mr. Domenech. Most plagiarizers will subtly change the wording of what they intend to copy so as to disguise their crime. Mr. Domenech didn’t even take the time and effort to do that. Here is just one example, a review of the film Final Fantasy that appeared in the National Review Online:
Ben Domenech in National Review Online in July of 2001:
“Translucent and glowing, they ooze up from the ground and float through solid walls, wriggling countless tentacles and snapping their jaws. They’re known as the Phantoms, alien thingies that, for three decades, have been sucking the life out of the earthlings of â€œFinal Fantasy: The Spirits Within.â€ Swollen nightmares from a petri dish, they’re the kind of grotesque whatsits horror writer H.P. Lovecraft would have kept as pets in his basement.”
“Translucent and glowing, they ooze up from the ground and float through solid walls, splaying their tentacles and snapping their jaws, dripping a discomfiting acidic ooze. They’re known as the Phantoms, otherworldly beings who, for three decades, have been literally sucking the life out of the earthlings of the human.”
There is beauty in the imagery evoked by Mr. Murray’s description – a juxtapostion of words that are pleasing when listened to by our inner voice as well as exciting to our imagination when conjuring up a picture drawn with such clarity.
For Mr. Domenech to steal those words and ideas is like slapping Mr. Murray in the face and laughing at the same time. For at bottom, the plagiarizer fully realizes what he is doing and thinks he is being clever by getting away with it. This is not a case where some graduate assistant helping with research on a book for some famous academic lifts entire passages from someone else’s thesis or an obscure article in an scholarly journal as has happened in recent years with several historians. This is a case where Mr. Domenech was using the platform provided by NRO to advance his own career and pad his credentials, the result being he was shortly thereafter hired by the White House as a speech writer.
Dan Reihl is a conservative blogger who gives voice to sentiments that should be echoed by conservative writers across the country:
No one with a healthy respect for original ideas, or the written words of others could do what it seems Domenech has done. If he’s guilty, his judgment displays a profound lack of moral and ethical grounding. Ambition is no excuse for theft. And that’s precisely what plagiarism is.
I’m assuming the WaPo will act, if it hasn’t already. If guilty, allowing him to continue representing the Right would be terribly wrong.
If we conservatives have any claims to promoting honesty and decency, there will be more calls on the right for Mr. Domenech to do the honorable thing and save himself and his employer the embarrassment of being fired by resigning immediately. Little can be gained from his continuing to blog at the Washington Post as I for one never plan on linking to anything he writes and would hope that other conservatives would join me in such a boycott.
Ben Domenech is not the kind of writer we want representing the conservative viewpoint at the Washington Post or anywhere else. With so many eloquent and able conservative writers, I’m sure the Post will have no problem finding someone else to take over a blog that should be espousing honesty and decency as the principles by which we on the right live by.
Anything short of that just won’t do.
I can’t help but thinking that with these and other conservative bloggers already weighing in on this matter -coming out four square against Domenech’s plagiarism – it would be an interesting thought experiment to think of what kind of reaction lefty bloggers would have if one of their own was accused of something similar. Given the left’s penchant to close ranks for the likes of Joe Wilson (a proven liar) and Bill Clinton, I daresay that there would be nary a peep from the netnuts if the shoe were on the other foot in this case.
John Cole defends Mr. Domenech from the charges of racism (because he called a black person a communist?) as well as other blathering charges from the left. In a comment in the same post, Cole gives his views on the plagiarism issue.
Michelle Malkin, for whom Mr. Domenech was an editor on her last book, weighs in:
As someone who has worked in daily journalism for 14 years, I have a lot of experience related to this horrible situation: I’ve had my work plagiarized by shameless word and idea thiefs many times over the years. I’ve also been baselessly accused of plagiarism by some of the same leftists now attacking Ben.
The bottom line is: I know it when I see it. And, painfully, Domenech’s detractors, are right. He should own up to it and step down. Then, the Left should cease its sick gloating and leave him and his family alone.
And James Joyner has a thoughtful defense of Domenech here:
I am not ready to toss Domenech under the proverbial bus or call for his firing at the moment. There may, indeed, be perfectly reasonable explanations for these charges. But while Erickson is probably right that â€œFacts have never been debate winners among the haters,â€ they should damned well be debate winners among the rest of us. Let alone, I should add, the side that so loudly heralds traditional virtues like honor.
Ordinarily I would agree with Mr. Joyner. However, the examples of Mr. Domenech’s plagiarism ferreted out so far are so egregious, so obvious that the only possible “reasonable explanation” is that either Mr. Domenech’s work is being copied by people like P.J. O’Rourke or Mr. Domenech has been caught red-handed.